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10 Days till Camp: Can reinforced receiving corps make much-needed jump?

© Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports


SANTA CLARA – It’s no secret that the 49ers’ best receiver last season was, well, not a receiver. George Kittle led the team with 1377 receiving yards, and he nearly twice-lapped the second-highest yardage receiver in Kendrick Bourne (477 yards). With Pierre Garcon off the books, the 49ers went back-to-back in the second and third rounds this offseason to boost their corps, drafting Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) in the second round, and Jalen Hurd (Tennessee) in the third round.

Those picks, plus the signing of Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles, leave the 49ers with a young group of potentially dynamic receivers for Jimmy Garoppolo to take advantage of. For Jimmy Garoppolo to become the franchise quarterback who he’s believed to be, he needs guys who create their own space with effective routes and who snag balls with consistency.

Last season, the 49ers dealt with the weird scenarios of C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens at quarterback plus a host of receivers who were alright, but not much more than that. Jerick McKinnon’s torn ACL at the start of camp, the frequently questionable and/or sidelined Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, and the underwhelming first half performances by a Garcon who was sidelined for all of the second half, combined with a remaining corps who were paired with backup-at-best quarterbacks was a recipe for an inept offense.

For the 49ers to have success, they must have a massive improvement. There must be some dynamism, the threat of both deep balls and high-percentage short looks, and proof of players with the ability to run comeback and curl routes in two-minute drills and beat their man in the red zone. George Kittle cannot be isolated as the lone dynamic wide out (who’s not a wide out).

Health must reign supreme. Even if Samuel and Hurd underwhelm in their rookie campaigns numbers-wise, having a healthy group will overwhelm such disappointment. With a deeper corps, expect a deeper roster. Expect more than the six wide receivers that made the team last year to make the cut; and for them to excel, necessarily, in Shanahan’s system which should feature assault by air and promote whoever has the hot hand in the backfield.

The 49ers will probably trade one of their three starting-caliber backs if all three are healthy at the deadline but don’t expect it to be for nothing. Backfield value in 2019 comes largely in the ability to secure quick screens and sometimes operate as the roaming extra wide out and make defenders miss. The 49ers have three guys who can create options for their true wide outs.

Samuel projects to be a perfect complement to Goodwin and Pettis in the slot, with Hurd a dangerous outside and red zone threat. Goodwin is expected to see a load reduction in the upcoming season, but that necessitates someone else step up with him off the field. He’s been the presupposed No. 1 for the Niners since he came off a career year of 965 yards with 56 catches and 2 TDs in 2017.

But last year, after signing a 3-year, $18.85 million contract, Goodwin played just 11 games, catching 23 passes for 395 yards and 4 TDs. This new crop of receivers could unleash that 2017 version of Goodwin again by taking some of the load off his shoulders. Not having Garcon will certainly help.

Still, there are going to be a lot of expectations for three guys (four, if counting Kendrick Bourne) who are all 23 years old with a combined 12 games of experience between them in Samuel, Hurd and Pettis. For the offense to become what it needs to be, they need to be effective this year. The big question is, will that happen?

Here’s what the 49ers’ receiving corps (tight ends excluded) looks like grouped by their chances to make the roster (contract data comes from Spotrac):

Near certain:

Marquise Goodwin:

  • Age: 28
  • Exp: 6 years (3rd round, 78th overall, 2013)
  • Height/Weight: 5’9″, 180 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 31 1/2″, 8 5/8″
  • 40 time: 4.27 secs
  • Cap hit: $3.969 million
  • Alignment: Outside (27.3% Left, 22.2% Right), Slot (27.3% Left, 19.3% Right)
  • Previous year’s stats: 11 games, 23 receptions, 395 rec. yards, 4 TD

Dante Pettis:

  • Age: 23
  • Exp: 1 year (2nd round, 44th overall, 2018 – University of Washington)
  • Height/Weight: 6’1″, 197 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 32 1/4″, 9 1/2″
  • 40 time: 4.48 secs
  • Cap hit: $1.455 million
  • Alignment: Slot, (31.5% Left, 22.6% Right), Outside (27.7% Left, 13.5% Right)
  • Previous year’s stats: 12 games, 27 receptions, 467 rec. yards, 5 TD

Deebo Samuel:

  • Age: 23
  • Exp: Rookie (2nd round, 36th overall, 2019 – University of South Carolina)
  • Height/Weight: 5’11”, 214 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 31 3/8″, 10″
  • 40 time: 4.48 secs
  • Cap hit: $1.396 million (projected)
  • Alignment: Projects as most valuable in the slot, though can be use outside
  • Previous year’s stats (college, senior): 12 games, 62 receptions, 882 rec. yards, 11 TD

Jalen Hurd:

  • Age: 23
  • Exp: Rookie (3rd round, 67th overall, 2019 – Baylor University)
  • Height/Weight: 6’5″, 226 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 32″, 10 1/4″
  • 40 time: 4.47 secs
  • Cap hit: $776,235 (projected)
  • Alignment: Projects as most valuable outside, deep- and end zone threat; was converted to a wideout after playing as a running back at the University of Tennessee. Hurd transferred to Baylor and used his size and athleticism to adapt to the position, but is still raw in terms of route-running.
  • Previous year’s stats (college, senior): 12 games, 69 receptions, 946 rec. yards, 4 TD

Good chance:

Jordan Matthews

  • Age: 26
  • Exp: 5 years (2nd round, 42nd overall, 2014 – Vanderbilt University)
  • Height/Weight: 6’3″, 212 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 33 1/4″, 10 3/8″
  • 40 time: 4.46 secs
  • Cap hit: $1.706 million
  • Alignment: Outside (34.7% Right, 27.1% Left, 22.2%), Slot (16.8% Right, 10.6% Left)
  • Previous year’s stats: 14 games, 20 receptions, 300 rec. yards, 2 TD – Had three 800-plus yards in first three seasons

Trent Taylor

  • Age: 25
  • Exp.: 2 years (5th round, 177th overall, 2017 – Lousiana Tech)
  • Height/Weight: 5’8″, 180 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 28 3/4″, 8 1/4″
  • 40 time: 4.64 secs
  • Cap hit: $695,484
  • Alignment: Slot (Right 39.9%, 39.7% Left), Outside (9.3% Right, 7.5% Left)
  • Previous year’s stats: 14 games, 26 receptions, 215 rec. yards, 1 TD

Kendrick Bourne

  • Age: 23
  • Exp: 2 years (Undrafted, 2017 – Eastern Washington University)
  • Height/Weight: 6’1″, 203 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 32 1/2″, 9 1/8″
  • 40 time: 4.68 secs
  • Cap hit: $646,668
  • Alignment: Slot (32.7% Right, 22.8% Left), Outside (22.3% Right, 20.2% Left)
  • Previous year’s stats: 16 games, 42 receptions, 487 rec. yards, 4 TD

Bubble:

Richie James

  • Age: 23
  • Exp: 1 year (Round 7, Pick 240, 2018 – Middle Tennessee State)
  • Height/Weight: 5’9″, 185 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 31 1/4″, 9 1/4″
  • 40 time: 4.48 secs
  • Cap hit: $589,142 if kept, $19,142 if cut
  • Alignment: Left (39.6% Slot, 21.4% Outside), Right (16.1% Slot, 12.5% Outside)
  • Previous year’s stats: 13 games, 9 receptions, 130 rec. yards, 1 TD

Max McCaffrey

  • Age: 25
  • Exp: 2 years (Undrafted, 2016 – Duke University)
  • Height/Weight: 6’2″, 190 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 31 5/8″, 8 7/8″
  • 40 time: 4.51 secs unofficial
  • Cap hit: $570,000, none if cut
  • Alignment: Only played 5 snaps, inconclusive
  • Previous year’s stats: Played final game, no receptions

Malik Henry

  • Age: 23
  • Exp: Rookie (Undrafted, 2019 – West Georgia)
  • Height/Weight: 6’0″, 183 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 32 1/2″ ,7 1/2″
  • 40 time: 4.41 secs
  • Cap hit: $500,000, $5,000 if cut
  • Alignment: Projects to play outside, deep- and end zone threat
  • Previous year’s stats (college): 9 games, 30 receptions, 407 rec. yards, 7 TD

Shawn Poindexter

  • Age: 23
  • Exp: Rookie (Undrafted, 2019 – University of Arizona
  • Height/Weight: 6’4 1/12″, 218 pounds
  • Arm/Hand length: 33 1/8″, 9 1/4″
  • 40 time: 4.65 secs
  • Cap hit: $496,666, $1,666 if cut
  • Alignment: Projects to play outside mostly
  • Previous year’s stats (college): 12 games, 42 receptions, 759 rec. yards, 11 TD

Note: This piece is part of a countdown to training camp feature which, each day leading up to the start of training camp on July 27, will take a look at one of the 10 biggest questions the 49ers will have to answer this season. While camp officially starts on July 26, the first practice is July 27.

 

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